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Muslims mark fasting month of Ramadan

September 21, 2009 - WORLD

The first sight of the new crescent moon is the signal for Muslims around the world to begin a month of fasting and prapyer. In recent years insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have waited for Ramadan for major offensives, and the Taliban in Pakistan vowed to step up their attacks in Ramadan 2008. Any increase in violence poses an ethical dilemma for the other side of the conflicts--whether to back off the fight during Ramadan out of respect for Islam or to retaliate with full force.

Violence has spiked across Iraq during Ramadan every year since the invasion by United States-led forces in 2003. In 2008 the Taliban rejected a Pakistan government announcement it would suspend military actions in the northwest of the country, the Taliban stronghold, during Ramadan. Signs of a new militancy in Pakistan's government and a willingness to counter recent Taliban territorial advances suggest the same offer won't be made in 2009. Many wars have been fought during Ramadan. Mohammad's conquest of Mecca took place in the middle of Ramadan, and Egypt and Syria launched their 1973 war on Israel to recapture territory lost in the 1967 war during Ramadan. Ramadan, the ninth month of lunar calendar, when the Koran is said to have been revealed to the prophet Muhammad, is a time of reflection, contemplation and self-purification for Muslims. They break their daily fast with iftar, an evening meal. Following the iftar it is customary for Muslims to go out visiting family and friends. The fast is resumed the next morning. During the holy month, all believers must refrain from telling a lie, slander, denouncing someone behind his back, making false oaths and greed. They also must perform a special prayer, called the Taraweeh, in addition to the five daily prayers. Id-al-Fitr celebrates the end of the fast. Gifts are exchanged and friends and families gather for large meals. *The date of Ramadan may also vary from country to country, depending on whether the moon has been sighted and the time zone. In the Americas Ramadan 2009 starts a day later -- Aug 22.In the Muslim calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day, so observing Muslims will celebrate Ramadan on the sunset of 20 Aug (21 Aug in the Americas).

Ramadan (CBC 27 Oct 2003)

Once again Iraq's Ramadan ends in violence (McClatchey 29 Sep 2008)

Date written/update: 2009-09-21